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Kaikai
And Kiki

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Critical Review

The Kaikai and Kiki collection, produced by the renowned Japanese contemporary artist, Takashi Murakami, is a dynamic series of lithograph prints, all of which feature Murakami’s adorable cartoon characters, Kaikai and Kiki.

The artist is famous for creating an array of cartoon characters, inspired by anime and manga (Japanese cartoons and comics) that appear frequently throughout his artworks. Notable characters include Mr. DOB, whose appearance resembles that of Mickey Mouse and has come to be known as Murakami’s cartoon alter-ego, as well as the earless robotic cat, Doraemon. Kaikai and Kiki were created in 2000 and feature prominently in the works the artist has produced since then. The characters’ names come from the term ‘kaikaikiki’ which was used in the late 16th century to describe the work of the painter Eitoku Kanô who produced paintings that were both ‘powerful and sensitive’.

Kaikai and Kiki have a kawaii (cute) aesthetic, with round eyes and fluttering eyelashes, big grins and rabbit-like ears. Murakami adds the original Japanese lettering that denotes the term ‘kaikaikiki’ to the ears of the cartoon characters. The artist hoped that the characters and their strange appearance would encapsulate the dichotomies represented by the term: things that are bizarre, yet refined, delicate yet bold. As well as appearing in these prints, Kaikai and Kiki have featured in a wide range of other paintings produced by Murakami and have also appeared in films produced by the artist.

Discussing how he chose the character names, Murakami explains: “This term, that was used by an art critic in the late 16th Century... embraces several different notions: bravery and power, with all the seductiveness those traits may have and at the same time a keen sensitivity. This was the mixture of qualities that was considered elegant at the time, aesthetically speaking... And since I found the expression kikikaikai had a very attractive sound and because the names suited them, I baptized these two characters Kaikai and Kiki”.

Kaikai Kiki is also the name of Murakami’s factory-size studio, which is based in Miyoshi, an industrial area outside of Tokyo.